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Henry C. Bear is one of the oldest residents of Champaign County. He went from Macon County as a brave and gallant soldier into the Union Army during the Civil War, returned after the war with his wounds and gave his energy to agriculture until his health would permit following that no longer, and now for many years he has been engaged in the grain business at Penfield. His is a record that deserves more than passing mention.
He was born at Mount Rock in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, a son of David and Maria (Yoter) Bear. His father was a native of Pennsylvania and his mother of Maryland. Henry C. was the oldest of their nine children and was fifteen years of age when the family came to Illinois, locating at Decatur in Macon County. Mr. Bear and his brothers and sisters were educated partly in Plainfield, Pennsylvania, and also in Illinois.
On November 17, 1859, Mr. Bear married Miss Lucetta Jane Likins. She was born in Marion County, Ohio, a daughter of John and Sarah (Cole) Likins, also natives of Ohio. Mrs. Bear was likewise fifteen years of age when her parents came to Illinois. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Bear located in Oakley Township in Macon County and were quietly engaged in the peaceful vocation of farming for several years.
Not long after the war began Mr. Bear showed his practical patriotism by enlisting in Company A of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois Infantry. He enlisted at Decatur, went south to Memphis, and was soon with General Sherman’s great armies operating around Vicksburg. Mr. Bear had his first experience in the scenes of warfare at Chickasaw Bayou, the engagement in which General Grant nearly lost the day and would have been defeated had it not been for the coming up of General Sherman’s troops. Mr. Bear was next at Arkansas Post under General McClelland and was at the capture of Fort Hinman, where the Federals captured 5,500 Rebels. He was then again with the troops in the investment and siege of Vicksburg and helped dig the canal across the river from Vicksburg at Young’s Point. He was also a participant in the expedition up the Yazoo River to Black Bayou and was in the skirmish with the Confederates who tried to prevent the Union forces from securing several gunboats. Mr. Bear was a participant in those fruitless efforts of General Grant in the early months of 1863 to open up the Mississippi by means of canals and in the later movements by which Sherman and Grant’s armies engaged the Confederates at Fort Gibson, Bolton, Raymond and other points in the rear of Vicksburg. He was also at Champion Hill and Black River Bridge and on the 18th of May he was one of Grant’s forces that seized the Confederate stronghold of Haines Bluff. On the next day Grant ordered an assault on the Vicksburg works, intending to charge with the entire line. He changed his mind and countermanded part of the order. The batteries, however, gave the signal to charge and two divisions, one of which Mr. Bear was a member, stormed the fort and were badly used by the Confederate garrison. Mr. Bear was severely wounded in this charge and was sent to Van Buren Hospital, where he remained until that hospital was discontinued on August 20th. The patients were sent to a hospital at Keokuk, Iowa, and on June 1, 1865, after the war was over, Mr. Bear was honorably discharged. The surgeons were never able to find the bullet which wounded him and he still carries it in his body and it has been a source of more or less trouble to him ever since. Besides his own wound Mr. Bear while at Vicksburg had to suffer the loss of a younger brother, William W. Bear. His death was caused by severe exposure during a storm. Mr. Bear ministered to the comfort of this brother during his last illness, and obtained a coffin in which he was laid to rest on one of the great battlefields around the Mississippi stronghold.
After his honorable discharge Mr. Bear returned home. Mrs. Bear had in the meantime lived with her own and her husband’s people and had endured bravely the sacrifices which every soldier’s wife must make in time of war. Before he went into the army they had buried their first child, Minerva May. When he returned from the army his wife presented him with a little daughter, then a year old, which she had named Eugenia C. With his family reunited Mr. Bear took up. the thread of life again as a farmer, and in the spring of 1869 located on a farm near Penfield in Champaign County.
Two other children were born to their marriage. Their names were Mary M. and Eudora. Eudora died at four years of age of typhoid fever. Mr. and Mrs. Bear gave their children the best of educational advantages, at first in the district schools and then in the Penfield schools. The daughter Eugenia married David P. Cox, and they now reside in Denver, Colorado. To their union were born three children, named Thomas Henry, Weaver B. and Mary J. The son Weaver died and was buried after they moved to Denver.
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Mary M. Bear married G. W. Hadden. Mr. Hadden with Mr. Henry Bear is engaged in the elevator business at Penfield and Gerald. They own the two elevators, the one at Penfield having a capacity of 16,000 bushels, and that at Gerald 35,000 bushels. In the course of a year they handle a large amount of the grain raised and produced in this section. Mr. and Mrs. Hadden have one child, Stanley B. Hadden, a fine manly boy who finished the eighth grade of the Penfield schools and then pursued the full course in the University of Illinois, from which he graduated. On leaving the university he became associated with his father and grandfather at Penfield. In 1016 he was solicited to teach the Gerald school, and his success there caused his engagement for the year 1917-18 as principal of the Penfield School. His father, G. W. Hadden, had been a teacher for twenty-five years, and education has been something of a family profession. Stanley B. Hadden married Miss Sylvia Kenner of Urbana, daughter of Enos Renner of that city. One child was born, Jane Elizabeth, on November 8, 1915. She is now eighteen months old and Mr. Henry Bear is very proud of his great-grandchild.
The Bear family attends the United Brethren Church in Penfield and has for many years been liberal supporters of its cause. Mr. Bear was an early abolitionist and in the main has supported men rather than the party. He is a member of the Knights of Pythias. For the past thirty-six years he and his wife have lived in Penfield, since his wounds received in his country’s service incapacitated him for farm labor. The Bear home has been one of hospitality and one of the centers of culture and good influence in this section of the county. Mr. Bear has spent nearly half a century in Champaign County and has never cared to be away from the county for any length of time. He went to the capital at Washington, D. C., to attend President Cleveland’s inauguration. The great recreation of his life has been fishing. No walk has been too long and the sun has never been too bright to hinder him from such sport. He was also an early day hunter and killed a number of deer in Macon County. His friends once planned a birthday surprise party for him. Mr. Azro Arms was delegated to keep Mr. Bear busy at the elevator until the company had assembled. He induced Mr. Bear to shoot at tin cans thrown into the air. After numerous failures and a few successful shots Mr. Bear said, “This is only a waste of ammunition. I can’t shoot these cans like you.” Mr. Arms was somewhat of an expert in this sport. To keep the unwitting host a little longer he replied, “What do we care for ammunition? You are doing first rate; keep on and try again.” Thus he was able to divert him until the company had assembled and then they went together to the house. On seeing the crowd Mr. Bear understood Mr. Arms’ enthusiasm and he enjoyed the joke as much as the rest of the company.
His life has been noted for honesty of purpose and has been a long and commendable one. Of his good wife the following words may be appropriately recalled:
“It is a wonderful thing, a mother. Other folks may love you, but only your mother understands. She works for you, prays for you, watches over you, forgives you anything you may do, understands you, and the only thing unkind she ever does to you is to die and leave you.”